THE FIVE A’S
One of the best books I have ever read for some serious self-awareness was How To Be An Adult in a Relationship, by David Richo. www.davericho.com After being married for twenty years getting married when I was a mere twenty-four, and then divorcing at forty four required a lot of this self reflection. After all when a young woman gets married at the tender age of twenty-four, a lot happens in twenty years. The illusion of being a grown up is part of this metamorphosis that happens in time spent in marriage whether you are happy or not. What is on our outsides doesn’t always match with our insides and when my exhusband and I split up, I had a lot of time to reflect on what went right, what went wrong and what part I played in the disruption of it all. And yes I did have to admit the part I played because as we all know it takes two to tango.
None of this is more apparent than when I found myself dating and all of the triggers that had been dormant since I was twenty-four came out swinging. I had not a clue when I started back on the dating scene what had been taking a serious hibernation for twenty years and despite the fluttery heart of a teenager, the crazy head of “Does he like me? How come he is not texting me at the speed of light?” and all of the other mind fucks that frankly as fun as it was seriously had me rethink getting divorced at forty four. I came up with the idea that whatever age you get married at is where you leave off mentally and it comes back out like the bogeyman on a dark stormy night as soon as the first date happens. Not pretty. But Fun. Fluttery. Juicy. But ultimately this all wears off and it is what you have done to prepare for this inevitable that gives you the tools to take this new relationship deeper and more meaningful… if that is what you want. And you may not. You may be the type of chick who wants the juice and the flutter, and you may come and go (no pun intended, really) from one vibe of newness to the next one. This was never my intention; I wanted a deeply committed and every growing relationship and the man I restarted this with was someone I really wanted to do the work on myself to get there. And he did too.
There is a lot written on the self-awareness lessons from the work you do on yourself and then what happens when you meet someone and all of that work you have done gets applied. Because the fact is that the work on oneself is easy when it is just you. You don’t have anyone to test the waters on to see if all of that hard work you have been doing means anything at all. Applying it to a relationship is when you see how successful you are. And more often than not it surprises you and comes out of nowhere when you least expect it. I can almost hear myself aloud, “But I have done the work!” Yeah right.
The reason this is all coming out now is because my grandfather has a lovely nurse who has recently (three month recently) separated from her thirteen-year unhappy marriage and has met a guy. She is head over heels and I recognized the energy. It is so fun to feel that spark again. It is so easy to get sucked into the vortex thinking that this is the perfect guy. I gave her a knowing warning. “Be careful. He is probably a lot more like your soon to be ex-husband than you think.” She replied and I could have said it for her, “ Actually he is the exact opposite,” with that starry eyed sappy vibe we chicks recognize. “I know this is what you think, but he is probably a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is your bridge guy. He is the one that is going to take you from and to. Have fun, but he is not the one. Believe me. And please immediately go buy this book.” And I promptly gave her the title and author and a nice meal for the road.
This book’s main theme that spoke to me so clearly was plenty, but the one that struck me to my core was Richo’s approach to what constitutes a healthy relationship, the five A’s as he called them.
Acceptance. Allowing. Appreciation. Affection. Attention.
What spoke to me so clearly was his descriptions of each one when it is in balance and when it is not and what I realized as the words poured off the page was how much I had been out of balance. This also taught me how to get into balance with the corrections necessary to be in a healthy relationship. The thing is that these five words go both ways. It is not just the chick needing them, but the partner needing them too. This was the hardest element for me to learn, that my concept of these five A’s does not mean that my partner thinks the same way about them. Like just because I like a lot of physical affection and a lot of attention, doesn’t mean that my partner likes it the same way. This has been eye opening to me. I have feelings, but guess what, so does my partner? What? I thought it was the woman who was always wanting.
Relationships when we are young can so often be more about control and manipulation, the silent treatments and passive aggression to make your point.
This book taught me that to really participate wholly the five A’s have to be activated and worked on. Lots of this is about releasing ego and allowing love. Accepting partner’s differences and realizing that just because his opinion is not yours doesn’t mean that it is wrong or right, but just different. Appreciating the other’s goods, bads, uglies and beautifuls and knowing that we all have good and bad days and part of the connection is learning about each other to know what and when and how. Some of us need more or less attention or affection in our own ways. Some of us like more physical and some like more verbal. Then others like affection and appreciation with none at all. Distance and closeness (and this is really an interesting part of the lessons in all of the five A’s)is learning that a partner may need distance but that it doesn’t mean he or she is not into you. Lessons abounded in this book and I really think that it should be required reading for all newly engaged couples as well as struggling couples too. Healthy relationships are so satisfying when everything is in sync. Conversation and communication only work if both are on the same plane or want to be on one. Post the romance phase when everything that happens is perfect and fabulous and based purely on sexual connection is all fine and good, but without that mutual camaraderie afterwards when the commitment phase becomes a permanent fixture, a relationship can fizzle and it is often because the two didn’t understand that there is more work to be done post the sexual charge that seemed to make the whole partnership seem like nothing could ever go wrong.
I have applied these five A’s to people I work with, friendships and my relationship with my mother, my family and my former husband. They have worked in ways that have rewarded over and over again and when I remember to apply them I am never disappointed. These five A’s are where the juice is, where the nuggets lie in a deep connection with a partner and I have loved applying them in my life. Especially when I remember.
“Self-actualization is not a sudden happening or even the permanent result of long effort. The eleventh-century Tibetan Buddhist poet-saint Milarupa suggested: “Do not expect full realization; simply practice every day of your life.” A healthy person is not perfect but perfectible, not a done deal but a work in progress. Staying healthy takes discipline, work, and patience, which is why our life is a journey and perforce a heroic one.”
― David Richo, How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving